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New Day Saturday

At Least 110 People Were In A Mayfield, KY Candle Factory Hit By Tornado; Dozens Of Tornadoes Leave Path Of Destruction Across Six States; Police Chief On Amazon Warehouse Collapse: "An Utter Disaster"; One Killed After Tornado Slams Arkansas Nursing Home; Gov.: Storms "The Most Severe Tornado Event In Kentucky's History"; Soon: Blue Origin Launches Its Third Crewed Mission. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 11, 2021 - 08:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: But it is clear these storms are devastating potentially some of the worst that areas like Mayfield, Kentucky have ever seen.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: And we're still waiting to hear word on what happened to the 110 people who were inside this candle factory, what used to be a candle factory. Now as you take a look at this, it is now a debris field. The building completely leveled may feel being ground zero when it comes to the worst hit area of Kentucky. And that is according to the State Director of Emergency Management, Michael Dossett, a 110 people inside that candle factory when the tornado hit.

We know according to the Facebook page of the consumer products candle factory in may feel that this was and is a local family owned manufacturer of candles. But Boris, as you're saying, we're still waiting to hear. And now we are seeing daylight out. We know that rescue teams are on the ground right now. They're not only assessing the damage, but they're trying to see if there's anyone inside who may need help.

SANCHEZ: And we want to get to Amara -- rather right now we really want to get to someone who is on the scene, Michael Gordon. He is a storm chaser who is in Mayfield right now. He's at that candle factory, where search and rescue operations are underway.

And as we look behind you, Michael, it looks like an enormous debris field that is several feet high and maybe a couple 100 yards wide. What are you seeing there right now?

MICHAEL GORDON, STORM CHASER: Yes, I believe. I think there's upwards of, well, the bright 12 feet of debris. And yes, it's expands the full length of that factory, which I don't know exactly how long it is. But yes, it's just a pile of rubble. Everything without, I mean, across every part of the yard, even surrounding this factory has debris, it's pretty much covered with debris. And the wind is going to get starting to pick up here and it's getting cold as you can see. But --



SANCHEZ: And, Michael, I could see a few people walking through the debris behind you. What have you seen in the way of search and rescue efforts? Have they been able to, perhaps pull someone out of the rubble? Have they made any contact with someone who may be trapped inside?

GORDON: Yes. It's kind of hard to talk about. But, yes, I mean, they pulled many, many bodies out of rubble. Some of them are still alive. And that's (INAUDIBLE) some have been unfortunate that they, they passed. But the teams here, I believe are doing everything in their power to, you know, they're digging in that rubble by hand right now. Trying to (INAUDIBLE).

SANCHEZ: It is a delicate process and a difficult one. But we also want to focus on what they are trying to accomplish and that is getting as many potential survivors out as possible. Michael, were you there last night? I assume you were nearby in the area. What was it like?

GORDON: Yes. So I was -- I caught the tornado when it crossed I-55 I believe, near 80 (INAUDIBLE). And then followed it up into this area. When I got to this area, it was flashing lights in every direction, trees down, roads impassable.

It was it looked like a warzone. I mean, kind of what you're seeing behind me that -- what you're seeing behind nothing to what goes on for the next four to five miles (INAUDIBLE). It looks like what's behind me all the way through town.

SANCHEZ: That is very difficult to hear, Michael. Just a devastating scene, as you noted outside this candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky that looks like a junkyard. And as Michael noted, search and rescue teams are doing everything that they can right now to find survivors and help them.

Michael, we appreciate you sharing your story with us. Thank you so much for the time. Keep us posted, open lines of communication and let us know what you see and if there's any message that needs to get out there to the public. Thank you again Michael.


GORDON: Thank you.

WALKER: Just a heartbreaking situation. They're continuing their rescue efforts, and as you heard there from Michael Gordon, pulling people out, some lucky enough to be alive, others not so much. But we'll stay on top of the situation at this candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, which was hit so hard overnight.

CNN meteorologist, Allison Chinchar she is joining us now. What more can you tell us about this at least 200 mile path just in Kentucky?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. Again, it's the scope of this is really the takeaway from this particular storm. Yes, you had individual tornadoes that were very damaging and very deadly. But the long track that some of these tornadoes when is just incredibly impressive.

Over 30 tornado reports so far, just in the last 24 hours, over 100 severe wind reports and 20 large hail reports. Those numbers likely to go up. Again, these reports take time to come in. And as they do same thing with the damage is it's a process here.

But we take a look again, as you mentioned, the long span of this particular tornado. Again, there's the purple, pink and purple boxes, you see those are the different watches and warnings. They're the tornado warnings that came out all throughout the night. The little dots indicate tornado report. So you can see all along this over 200 mile long line.

You had the potential for the tornado. Now, what we don't know is did it stay on the ground the entire time, did it come up, then come back down? Because tornadoes will do that we will not know the answer to that until the National Weather Service can go out later today and survey a lot of the damage from this.

But to put this in perspective, the vast majority of tornadoes are on the ground for less than 10 minutes and travel less than 10 miles. This one went well beyond that. In fact, the record for longest tornado was back in 1925. It's referred to as the tri state tornado. It was just over 210 miles.

So again, this has the potential to break that record, again, if it's confirmed once the survey crews go back out. But the more imminent concern is the threat is still ongoing. It's not like the storm is done and over with, we still have four states dealing with tornado watches as we speak Kentucky tornado, Alabama as well as Mississippi although most of Mississippi starting to see an end there to the main bulk of the threat. The storm system itself is massive. It stretches all the way from Maine back to Texas.

But the focal point for the strong to severe thunderstorms has really been this center part here Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama really for the next couple of hours and then eventually moving into the Carolinas and areas of Georgia as the line continues to slide to the east. We still have active severe thunderstorm warnings, those are likely to continue.

This map has been updated to reflect the fact that the storm is starting to shift. So we still have the potential for isolated tornadoes, damaging winds and even some large hail. Though the large hail will mainly be focused on the southern end of the spectrum here. But Atlanta, Birmingham, Montgomery, Charlotte, all of these cities still have the potential for strong to severe thunderstorms as we go through the next several hours.

The timeline, of course is really going to be critical for some of these areas. We'll kind of break that down on exactly when we expect these storms to move through some of these cities coming up in just a little bit. SANCHEZ: Yes, and the ongoing danger really complicating the search and rescue efforts. The weather not helping those efforts this morning. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

Let's go straight to CNN national correspondent Nadia Romero. She joins us now over the phone from Mayfield, Kentucky. She's only a few miles from that candle factory where our storm chaser Michael Gordon was describing the scene.

Nadia, what are you seeing this morning?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris we're finally able to see a bit here this morning as the sun is coming up. So now we get a better look at the storm on our drive. And we drove through a storm, so it was slow going.

Cell service is spotty and the power is out for most of these small towns, as we make our way through Mayfield, on our way to the Mayfield product company. And as you said the candle factory there were we know that some 110 people were working last night during the storm.

So, we talked about the magnitude of the people who may have died in that storm at the candle factory. Listen to this back in 1890, according to the National Weather Service, there was a tornado that went through Kentucky (INAUDIBLE) and 76 people died. But that's 1890 before our advanced forecasting and advanced warning systems.

And so you don't expect to see these large numbers in 2021 and our modern era. And that just speaks to how severe this storm was and how far reaching this storm was and having lived in the Midwest and worked as a reporter anchor in local news all throughout the Midwest. There are times when people don't heed the warnings because you hear tornado sirens so frequently not usually in December but definitely in the spring and some people will just ignore those warnings or sleep through them.


And so, that is what makes these kinds of storms so dangerous, especially the ones that happen overnight. And especially when people are just kind of expecting it to come and roll by, and you cannot expect a tornado not to make it to your area. And unfortunately, we have these instances where tornadoes are forecasted. And they come and people are taken by surprise, especially when it happens at night and people are sleeping.

So we're making our way to Mayfield, Kentucky. We're here now or just around the corner from the candle factory. As you might imagine, it's slow going out. There not a lot of people in the world that we can tell, but there was definitely a storm that made its way through here.

And whenever you come to an area after a tornado, you can see the path pretty quickly but as you just heard from Allison Chinchar there, she talked about how why this storm was and how, how it was so impacting so many areas. And that's something that we're going to see firsthand once we arrive on scene. Boris, Amara. WALKER: This is a very urgent situation right now at least in Mayfield, Kentucky, at this candle factory. We know right now on the ground. Rescue efforts are underway, bodies and people are being pulled according to storm chaser Michael Gordon, who Boris just spoke with a few moments ago.

And we also know that all assets, this is according to the Kentucky Director of Emergency Management Michael Dossett he says that all assets are heading towards this area of Southwest Kentucky, particularly Mayfield which he described as ground zero in terms of the hardest hit part of Kentucky from these deadly tornadoes that hit last night. Last night around 9:30 p.m. which means that the people who have survived have been trapped under the rubble for many, many hours.

So, we are continuing to watch this as you heard Nadia Romero she is on her way very close to the scene and we will hear more and see more as the sun is now up and it will shine light on the devastation.

Let's turn now to Tennessee and just moments ago we got a report in from CNN affiliate WSMV and reporter Ryan Breslin is in Kingston Springs, Tennessee. Here is what he's reporting.


RYAN BRESLIN, WSMV REPORTER: But let me show you some of this damage that now we're seeing in the our last live shot I showed you the electric company, I talked to one of the workers there in this was a full structure here he told me that there was all lighting structures in here. But now you can see that the walls have blown out and everything is now on the ground here, blown away.

As we come down here to Sneed Road, now this is off of Highway 70. I do want to show you that will go somewhat down the road. I'm going to make sure that my photographer Thomas Davis is safe right now as we're walking is muddy out here. But you look down Sneed Road. And even just right here at this tree, look at the twists in the branches of the tree Thomas right over here, this tree. You can see the twists of the branches and then all the way down the road the debris that carries towards those homes right there.

As far as damage goes, we haven't been able to get down there because there are power lines that are down on the ground right now. We can see that there are some roofs off at this point. And we did just check in with the fire chief that's out here from Kingston Springs.

He says that they don't have any updates on any injuries at this moment because they have been able to sweep down here, we did see flashlights out here and rescue crews down here. They're also trying to get down Highway 70 and work with some of the people that are clearing the roads to try and get there.

At this point, they still haven't reached Butters Worth Road. But we do know from one of the gentlemen and his crew that were clearing the road, he told me that they had been able to clear all the way to Miller Hill Road. And then he said he was told that the road is clear on Highway 70 all the way to the Harpeth River Bridge.

Once again though, just take a look at all of the damage the debris that's out here. These apparently are lighting fixtures. That's what one of the workers here told me that is a part of this electric company that's here on us 70. Up in front of us here that's the office of the building. Beyond that is where all the rescue crews are working right now.

It's actually incredible to see them out there. The fire chief is there with a whiteboard. He's on the radio talking to people that are in different areas of Kingston Springs right now, trying to figure out where there's damage, who needs some rescues and who needs help at this point. Lauren (ph).



SANCHEZ: Our thanks to Ryan Breslin of CNN affiliate WSMV for that report from Tennessee. His report underscoring what we've learned this morning that these devastating tornadoes ripped across six states including Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas. The extent of the damage is still unknown. And as we've been hearing from our meteorologist Allison Chinchar the danger of severe weather remains.

We're going to bring you up to speed with the very latest headlines after a few minutes. Stay with CNN.


SANCHEZ: We're following breaking news this morning on devastating tornadoes that have torn through at least six states. There are new images of the Amazon facility outside Edwardsville, Illinois, where rescuers are facing huge challenges in their search missing workers right now. At least two people are dead there and Police Chief Mike Fillback has described the scene as a quote, utter disaster. Listen to this.



MICHAEL FILLBACK, CHIEF, EDWARDSVILLE POLICE: Edwardsville Fire Department and the Arizona Police Department responded along with multiple jurisdictions, fire, EMS and police, as you can see, have responded prior to lender rescue here.


WALKER: Turning now to Monette, Arkansas, at least two people are dead after a tornado there ripped through a local nursing home.

Joining me now is Marvin Day, a judge for Craighead County where Monette is located. First of all, thank you so much for joining us this morning. What can you tell us about the damages and the people and how they died? MARVIN DAY, JUDGE, CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR: Yes, so we did have an update from our corner till 1 o'clock last night that there were only one confirmed dad, so we were sad for that for that family but happy that it was not worse. Yes, the community we're out there looking now it's kind of taken. Now that the sun's up we've got, but the nursing home was a complete loss. We've heard of quite a few other structures throughout the county, but just sporadic throughout the county that are have been damaged.

WALKER: Can you tell me a little bit more about this nursing home? We have video and images of the damage, which is devastating, you can see that the roofs parts of it were just ripped off. What is the scene this morning? And what do you know about what exactly happened inside that nursing home and the tornado came through?

DAY: You know, we've not heard any reports from inside the tornado. We did see that, you know, immediately after they were evacuating people out, but then did have a few that that were trapped, and they had to have help from fire rescue to get them out.

But and my understanding is throughout the night, they've been finding other nursing homes that could accept these patients to give them care. This -- yes and by the way, this was one of our few nursing homes that were set up with the VA. So, got a few veterans in there. And so, we're thankful things were not as bad as they could have been.

WALKER: Has everyone in that nursing home been accounted for Judge?

DAY: Yes, ma'am. They have been accounted for. We get -- we'll get word of that about, oh, 10 o'clock local time that everyone had been had been accounted for.

WALKER: And how many would that be?

DAY: I don't know. I would have guessed around 100.


DAY: But I'm not quite sure.

WALKER: And is it -- so it's correct that one person from that nursing home died as a result of the tornado?

DAY: That is correct. Yes, ma'am.

WALKER: And what kind of injuries are we talking about regarding the -- how many others, there's a five you said?

DAY: Yes, ma'am. I understand that those five their primary issue had been head injuries. I'm sure there were quite a few others that, like had been told one that one maybe had a fractured arm or wrist or something like that. But the primary concern we had was head injuries.

WALKER: Judge, can you tell us a little bit about this community? I'm reading online, that Monette is as quite a small town population under 2,000. Is that correct? DAY: That sounds right. Yes ma'am.

WALKER: And Boris spoke with the mayor earlier this morning. And, you know, understandably he got quite emotional. And he also, you know, referred to this tight knit small community. I mean, when it's that small, I imagine there are so many people including possibly yourself that may know people who live inside this nursing home.

DAY: As a matter of fact, I had a friend that was there. He was fine. Thank goodness. We got worried about that during the night but yes, Monette is a wonderful community. The finest (ph) people in the world to see. So, I'm glad to hear that you got to talk to the mayor because that was part of what was hard for me is I could -- I could get him on the telephone.

And I know he lives fairly close to the nursing home. So I was very concerned for him. So, in the end, others there, that wonderful community, really based around farming (INAUDIBLE) industry there but great people.

WALKER: I'm sorry for what you and your community is going through right now, Judge. Can you tell us what kind of emotions you've been feeling this morning?

DAY: You know, it's, you know, your heart absolutely breaks for people that have get their life lost and homes damaged. And, you know, it's just hard. But like I say, we come together and we support each other and it'll be OK. But, you know, it's tough. This is, you know, I've been in office almost three years now. And this is our third tornado outbreak since I've been here. So, it's tough, you know, but you do everything you can to help them, it will like it.


WALKER: Can I ask you Judge, what your friend in the nursing home told you about the moments the tornado hit? I mean, it's astounding to see the damages and the roof, just not there in this nursing home yet you hear that 99% of the people made it out just fine. One person died as a result. Did they have enough warning, were they sheltering in a basement when the tornado hit?

DAY: No, that building does not have a basement. And so, they were just sheltering an interior places, like what we've been trained to do. But, you know, as far as adequate notification, you know, I have to say, our local meteorologists have been talking about this for two or three days that the potential was there.

And, you know, and everything I heard the, the appropriate tornado warning sirens. From what I've heard worked appropriately, you know, it's just, you know, a storm like this, you know, it becomes quick. So -- and I have not gotten the talk to my friend that this week got word through his wife, that he was doing fine, and everything was OK with him. But I've not gotten to talk to him about the storm

WALKER: Well, I'm relieved for you and glad to hear that your friend is doing OK, and that you were able to get in touch with his wife. But what about your experience Judge? I mean, where exactly do you live? Do you live in Monette itself? And what happened in your situation? Were you able to find shelter?

DAY: So I lived in Jonesborough, which is the county seat of Craighead County. You know, one of the last large storms that we had came within, I don't know, quarter mile my house, and so it's, you know, so yes, we were able to, we were near our storm shelter, but did not get in it. You know, my wife did not so, you know, we didn't have issues there. But there were quite a few issues in other areas, not far from our home that, you know, trees and that sort of thing.

WALKER: Were you unable to get into the storm shelter and time? Was that the reason?

DAY: No, no, you, you know, for us everyone is their supply kit, and emergency kits are a little different. But, you know, for us, we like to keep an eye on TV and radio and see what's going on. And we don't have that kind of information down in the storm shelter. So my wife was, was keeping us up on what was going on that way.

WALKER: What did it sound like and feel like for you?

DAY: You know, this one, you know, for the last storm, you know, we had a few years ago, you know, it's surreal, the, the noise and the wind and, you know, the power of the energy in the sky. You know, this one, we didn't see that. You know, when that cloaks for (INAUDIBLE) I'm sure there's people in Monette and Caraway and Lake City, other communities over there that, you know, better firsthand experiences on this storm than I did.

WALKER: Wow. And, you know, just saw some close up images on the ground there, next to the nursing home in Monette, and it looks like some of the residents are just doing OK, walking around talking to the emergency responders. And it really is a miracle when you see the destruction --

DAY: It is.

WALKER: -- that this tornado.

DAY: Absolutely, it is.

WALKER: Wreaked on this, this building, and --

DAY: Yes.

WALKER: -- some of the most vulnerable in our society, making it through just fine. So that really is a miracle.

DAY: Yes, absolutely.

WALKER: Judge Marvin Day, we really appreciate you joining us on what has been a tragic morning. We wish you all the best and thank you for your time, sir.

DAY: Thank you. Have a great day. SANCHEZ: We've been following this breaking news all morning. More than 30 tornadoes tearing across six states the devastation unimaginable. The estimates are from 50 to 100 people dead in Kentucky alone. The extent of the damage will not be known for at least several days. We're working to get you the latest information on the ground and from officials, stay with CNN as we bring you the latest from across the country.



SANCHEZ: We've been following breaking news this morning. Powerful storms that spawned deadly tornadoes overnight still a threat for much of the eastern United States.

WALKER: That's right. CNN Meteorologist Allison Chinchar is monitoring all of this. What do we need to know, Allison?

CHINCHAR: Right, that is devastating is the last 24 hours have been that the storms not over just yet, it's just shifting a little bit farther east.


So far, it's produced over 30 tornado reports, over 100 severe wind reports and about 20 large hail reports. But the storm system is still ongoing. Now one of the most devastating portions of the last 24 hours is perhaps one particular tornado that potentially lasted more than 200 miles.

That's this white line you see here. You can see the pink and purple boxes popping up along it. Those were the tornado warnings that were issued. And then the little white and red dots, those are tornado reports. Now, we don't know if this was one consistent tornado, or if this was a couple of them going back up, coming back down that we're going to have to wait for confirmation on that until the National Weather Service can go out and survey the damage that was left behind to determine a lot of those specifics.

What we know now is that the severe threat is still ongoing. You still have several states looking at tornado watches, including Kentucky, Tennessee, as well as portions of Northern Alabama. The storm system itself is very huge, very long reaching, stretching from Maine all the way back to Texas.

But the area where we're talking about the severe storms, that's really focused right here in this central region, where you have not only severe thunderstorm warnings, the orange boxes, but we even have a small tornado warning in effect right now just northwest of the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Now this line is going to continue to progress off to the east, it's not moving very fast. But as it moves, it's going to take a threat for severe weather with it.

We mean isolated tornadoes, damaging winds and even the potential for hail, although hail will be limited on the extreme southern end of this map that you see here. But Chattanooga, Knoxville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Montgomery, Charlotte, all of these cities have the potential for strong to severe thunderstorms as we go through the remainder of the day today.

The good news, the very big good news is that by late tonight or overnight hours, the storm system finally pushes out. Behind it, not real much weather. Now it is going to be a little bit cooler in terms of temperatures. But we are expecting sunshine and that will be very good news for a lot of the rescue, recovery and even cleanup efforts that are likely going to be ongoing. Not just for a lot of the damage, but remember, you've got a lot of power outages out there. And those power outages may take hours if not days to fully recover from a lot of the damage that we've seen from the storms.

Here's a look at the timeline. Again, by lunchtime today, now starting to push into areas of Birmingham, Knoxville then pushing towards Atlanta and Asheville, North Carolina. Those areas likely to get hit once we go a little bit later into the day, maybe about mid-afternoon before continuing out towards the east over towards Charlotte and Raleigh by the time we get later on into the evening.

Amara and Boris?

SANCHEZ: The next few hours are going to be critical for trying to find survivors and trying to get a real assessment of just how extensive this danger is. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much for the update.


WALKER: Thank you, Allison.

Well, its devastation is what we've been watching all morning long. People on the ground and places like Kentucky are getting a full look at the damage in the light of day. Congressman James Comer will be joining us next with more on the efforts in Mayfield.



SANCHEZ: We're following breaking news of a deadly tornado outbreak across the central United States this morning. More than 30 tornadoes have been reported so far in six states and heaviest damage so far. What officials are calling ground zero for these storms appears to be in Mayfield, Kentucky where a candle factory was destroyed.

Joining us now over the phone is Republican Congressman James Comer of Kentucky. He is in nearby Tompkinsville, Kentucky, but Mayfield is in his district. Congressman, we're grateful to have you this morning. I understand you just got an update from first responders and officials in the area. What are you hearing from them? What have they shared with you?

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): Well, it's really bad. I have a field representative from Mayfield who's been there all night on the scene, reporting back. I've talked to the sheriff and first responders and local elected officials in Graves County, which is Mayfield, Kentucky, as well as Hopkins County and Muhlenberg County and it's really bad. Lots of concern, fatalities, thus far.

And remember, the sun hasn't been up long in that part of Kentucky, and the primary focus last night throughout the night, and early this morning were in the towns, in the cities. Now, they're going out and seeing the damage in the rural areas and homes that were completely destroyed and just trying to account for all the missing people right now. They -- the first responders have been added all that, done a tremendous job. It's just something you can imagine happening.

SANCHEZ: Yes, those first responders do incredible work. In fact, Congressman, in the last hour, we heard from a storm chaser who is there at the candle factory on the scene, and he shared with us that he watched as some rescuers were able to pull survivors out of that rubble. So there is hope that more will be found.

I'm curious, because Mayfield, I understand is a town of less than 10,000 people. And I imagine that this factory must have been a huge part of that community, a big employer in that town. Can you tell us about the workers there, the significance of this factory and also what it means to you to see it in the state that it's in now?


COMER: It's terrible. I toured the factory about a year ago. This is their busiest time of the year. I believe they make Canterbury candles date (ph). So Christmas time is when you sell more candles than ever. They were going 24/7 in that factory.

And you're correct, it's one of the larger employers in Mayfield. So, to see the damages, it's just heart-wrenching. And I can tell you, there were people there all throughout the night when they arrived on the scene, they didn't think there would be any survivors. But they could hear people yelling for help. And they pulled people out, some people that didn't experience any damages.

But, of course, now they're -- you're at the point to where you're pulling out the people that didn't make it. And there's still lots of people that accounted for in that factor. Because again, this is the busiest time of the year for that factory.

SANCHEZ: I imagine, Congressman that you've had conversations with local and state officials. Have you been contacted by anyone in the federal government? Have you had any conversations perhaps with the White House?

COMER: I've had several of my colleagues reach out this morning. They have been watching the news all morning. We're going to be in communication with the White House. It's my understanding that Governor Beshear has already communicated with the White House.

The biggest requests, obviously, that I'm getting from the local elected officials is saying that they're going to need a lot of help with FEMA. So I'm going to be in route to West Kentucky very soon. And of course, my staffs already there on the scene, and we're going to do everything we can to coordinate with FEMA to make sure that the local first responders and local leaders have everything they need from the federal government.

SANCHEZ: You might imagine that we've had some very emotional conversations this morning with folks not just in Kentucky, but in other areas. Six states, more than 30 tornadoes reported so far. When you look at this footage, I imagine that it must be daunting, knowing that it is going to be a long road to building back, to getting things back to normal. What's your message to folks, not just in Kentucky, but across the country right now that are staring down a difficult path?

COMER: Well, it's just -- it's tough. I mean, you see in the pictures from little towns that have been completely destroyed. The courthouse is the centerpiece of every little county seat in Kentucky. We have 120 counties. And, you know, the seat -- the courthouse gone and local town squares decimated. It's just heartbreaking.

But I don't think we've gotten to the bad part yet. Because again, when we get out to these rural areas, I think that, you know, just to say the least, the very significant loss of property and at worse the loss of lives is going to be a long road, a long road for recovery for these people. But, hopefully we can get through it. I know there are a lot of prayers going out all across the world for people in Kentucky and Illinois and all the other states that have been affected by the tornadoes.

SANCHEZ: Congressman, there may be a lot of folks watching that aren't familiar with your part of Kentucky, what would you want them to know about your district and the people there.

COMER: Just -- the great people, these are salt of the earth people, people that work hard. Obviously, that factory when that tornado came, that was a -- 2:00, 3:00 in the morning, and they were working. I mean, these people work hard. They are patriotic people.

Mayfield, Kentucky is known for being a football powerhouse. That's -- they always have the Class 2A football team that makes it to the state finals. They did again this year, and then the final four. So it's a little community where everybody knows everyone in the same in Dawson Springs, in Central City and all the other towns in West Kentucky that were affected.

We've had tornado damage in Tyler County, Monroe County, and, you know, a significant number of the 35 counties in my congressional district. But it appears the worst of it is in that Mayfield area, Mayfield Central City area.

So, you know, again, it's just -- it's times like these when you see how fortunate (ph) we are to live in rural communities where everyone has a sense of community and everyone knows their neighbor, and they want to help their neighbors. And that's what's going on right now.

SANCHEZ: Congressman, please let us know how we might be able to help in the recovery and keep us apprised of the latest updates from the ground. We really appreciate your time. Congressman James Comer, thank you.

COMER: Thanks for having me on.

SANCHEZ: Stay with CNN for the very latest. We'll be right back after a quick break.



SANCHEZ: So this morning, Jeff Bezos Space Exploration Company Blue Origin is going to launch its third space tourism mission. A crew of six will be on board including ABC News Anchor Michael Strahan and Laura Shepard, the daughter of the first American astronaut Alan Shepard.

WALKER: Lift off was previously sat for Thursday before high winds forced them to reschedule. Will now, in just a couple of hours, they are planning to blast off. CNN's Innovation and Space Correspondent Rachel Crane is live at the launch site. Good morning to your, Rachel. What should we expect?

RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, you guys. Well, the rocket has been loaded with its propellant. The astronauts are currently at the training center and going through the last few paces before they make their way to that rocket and go up the tower and get inside that hatch.

Now I want to point out that we are in a brief hold right now. We're only about an hour away from their scheduled lift off of 945 Eastern Time.


We don't know what this hold is about. But the good news is, is that this is not an instantaneous launch window. So they do have a little bit of wiggle room for their launch time today, and they have a few backup windows set for later today. And as we know, all eyes are always on the weather when it comes to a rocket launch.

As you pointed out, this launch had been delayed a few days because of winds and winds with New Shepard are particularly important because the landing of the space capsule is done via parachutes. So you, of course, want to make sure that that capsule is not pushed into restricted airspace that it lands where it's expected to land.

But I just want to tell you a little bit about the flight profile here. There are six people that are on board. Six people have never been on board. The space capsule has always been limited to four and this entire mission you guys is only 10 minutes long. So I had the opportunity to speak to all six astronauts last night. They all say they are incredibly excited and not nervous for today's flight.

WALKER: Fascinating stuff. Rachel Crane, I can tell it's not windy right now, judging by how perfectly your hair is sitting on your shoulder. So that's good news. Great to have you, Rachel. Thank you. SANCHEZ: Thanks so much, Rachel. And we are going to take a break for just an hour, but you can join us again at 10.

WALKER: That's right. "SMERCONISH" is up next. We'll see you then.